Time to Shed the Fleece and Star Schmoozing: a guest blog by Brenda Buchanan

Julia Spencer-Fleming here, with a guest post by my friend, fellow law-school classmate, and writing aficionado Brenda Buchanan. Are you a writer – published or unpublished – living in Maine? Have you spent the winter bundled up in front of the fire, working on that manuscript? Brenda, one of the directors of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, wants to tell you it’s:


Best time of the year - before the blackflies!

Here’s a quick rundown of May happenings, followed by an informal survey that will win one commenter a swell prize.

From May 3 – 6, the Black Fly Writers Retreat will be held at the Shoreline Camps in beautiful Grand Lake Stream (Hooray

You can see yourself here, can't you?

Washington County!) Here’s a link to the venue so you can check out the natural beauty that will feed the muse: http://www.shorelinecamps.com/

Monica Wood, author of the ABA bestseller Any Bitter Thing and the much-anticipated When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine, due out in July, will be conducting a hands-on class on writing memoir. (Monica’s advice: “come prepared to write, write, write!”)

The versatile Cynthia Thayer, whose thriller A Brief Lunacy follows on the success of A Certain Slant of Light and her amazing first novel, Strong for Potatoes, will teach fiction for beginning and experienced writers. Cynthia’s class will culminate with interactive workshopping of participants’ manuscripts.


Write, write, write by day and night!

Writers who aren’t inclined to participate in a workshop but want some studio time away from the kids/household chores/cell phone are welcome as well.

Oh, and don’t fret about the black fly thing. The Maine Black Fly Report (there really is such a thing, check out http://mainenature.org/black-fly-reports/black-fly-info/) indicates early May is a dite early for the blackflies to be biting that far Downeast. Do you agree, Sarah Graves?

On Thursday May 31 in Portland, writers and readers will be raising a glass at the Maine Literary Awards gala, where crime writers are competing in a dedicated category this year. Ten crime novels published in 2011 were entered in this year’s contest. The winners will be announced that night. In addition to crime fiction, there are a bunch of other categories, including this year’s other new

Also check out the Great Reading Room while you're there!

niches – memoir, speculative fiction and Maine-themed non-fiction. The party starts at 7:00 p.m. on the top floor at USM’s Glickman Library. There’ll be food, drink and plenty of schmoozing to go around.

Finally, the survey.

This summer or fall, MWPA plans to offer a seminar specifically for crime writers. To help MWPA design a winning program, please use the comments section to let us know what would be most attractive to you. Crime Writing 101 or a roll-up-your sleeves intensive? One day or two? If two, consecutive or not? Weekdays or weekends? Greater Portland/greater Bangor/greater Lewiston?


Helping out by filling out...

Feel free to make suggestions you think will be helpful or inspiring. Commenters will be eligible to win an autographed copy of the book that wins the inaugural Maine Literary Award for excellence in crime writing. In the spirit of spring and its possibilities, we’ll pull a name from a Red Sox ball cap next week and get you the book once the winner is known.

MWPA programs are open to members and non-members. We offer a sliding scale membership fee. Members get a price break on programs. For more information about MWPA, email director@mainewriters.org, call 207-228-8264 or go to www.mainewriters.org.

Brenda Buchanan sits on MWPA’s Board of Directors.  She is hard at work polishing a novel about murder and well-kept secrets in a Maine mill town.  Her Twitter handle is @buchananbrenda and she blogs at http://brendabuchanan.blogspot.com/

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7 Responses to Time to Shed the Fleece and Star Schmoozing: a guest blog by Brenda Buchanan

  1. Barb Ross says:

    Brenda–welcome! MWPA is a great organization and it’s wonderful to have you here. Can’t wait to here about the seminar for crime writers!

  2. Lea Wait says:

    A seminar for crime writers? Hmmm. I know a few of those. Could be interesting! As for topics .. would depend on the intended audience … those just starting, or those looking to take their work to another level. I know several of us on this list have run workshops at MWPA in the past, and one of the challenges of that wonderful organization is meeting the needs of writers across the boards.

  3. MCWriTers says:

    Brenda…I helped put together a one-day session about mystery writing for MWPA years ago. I do think a one-day, weekend session is a great idea–it feels very doable to writers who, despite the way we present to the public, are often quite timid, especially about sharing our writing with others. (Believe it or not…the published as well as the aspiring.) So a one-day session with panels or presenters talking about:

    Overview: the elements of the mystery novel
    Character in Depth
    What is that elusive thing called Plot?
    Techniques for creating suspense in fiction
    Clues and Red Herrings
    Research: Six Degrees of Separation will Bring You to Your Expert
    Debriefing: Strategies for finding time to writer. Your questions and how not to have your head explode.

    As for location, depending on interest/responses from the membership, I would consider offering it twice–one in Portland/Lewiston/Brunswick, and again in Bangor.

    And I would offer it in September, when everyone trained to “go back to school” will be all revved up to hit their desks and start to writing.
    Good luck with this!


  4. Brenda Buchanan says:

    Hi Barb, Lea and Kate,

    Great feedback, thanks! I believe we need to start by acknowleding that one particular workshop cannot meet the needs of all writers. Beginners want and need different things than writers who have completed a manuscript or are at least elbow deep in one. It will be nice to get a sense of where the larger audience is right now. Perhaps there will be equal enthusiasm from both camps, and MWPA will have to organize two workshops aimed specifically at crime writers. It would be great to have that level of interest.

    I do think the genre and its conventions deserve specific programming, and know there are a heck of a lot of crime writers lurking out there in the Maine woods. So let us hear from you!


  5. I really like Kate’s suggested agenda. While writers of contemporary crime novels may want to know more about police procedures, forensics, etc., it’s the guts of creating an effective suspense/murder mystery set in any era that interest me. (My historical novel set in ancient Rome has a wrongful death at its heart.)

    As for location, the idea of delivering it in two locations, Portland and Bangor, is excellent. If it has to be limited to one location, why not Waterville or Augusta?

  6. Brenda Buchanan says:

    I appreciate your thoughts, Sherry. Do you think there would be interest in a full day format? Should there be a hands-on component? Perhaps an opportunity to have your work critiqued by the group? Or any other particular thoughts about what might be of interest and help to you and others who write crime fiction?


    • Sorry for the delay, Brenda. Yes, I think a full day would be ideal — making it worth people’s while to travel the many miles (85 for me each way) to Bangor. I also love the idea of a workshop component, but that could be a day in itself. Maybe have a two-part seminar on consecutive Saturdays? Participants could opt for one session or the other or both (special price for both).

      Re topics of interest: the art of maintaining and building suspense is one I’d like to know more about. The most memorable fiction is more than just the ticking bomb, the brave hero, and the unwitting little schoolchildren — there’s character development, subplots, etc., but how to avoid derailing the story’s momentum?

      I wish you luck, and hope you can create a program around this. BTW, if you call it something like “Building Suspense in Your Fiction,” it might draw a larger turnout than if it were pitched solely for crime writing.

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